Supplier diversity: How to make a big impact with simple shifts

A diversity and inclusion initiative isn’t just for the hiring process

By Maude Pariseau


Today, most companies have embraced a diversity and inclusion strategy as part of their business plan. This is predominantly seen in their hiring process as well as their client base. However, what is often missing from those plans is a supplier diversity initiative.

When talking to other procurement leaders in our industry, they often assume supplier diversity is not feasible due to the applicable policies and regulations. This is a myth!

As the head of BDC’s procurement team, I quickly embraced supplier diversity as a priority. On the road to putting a formal supplier diversity initiative in place, BDC started engaging with diverse suppliers and participating in supplier diversity conferences. In 2019, we officially launched our initiative with the help of WBE Canada.

Here are my top tips to get you started with your own supplier diversity initiative:

  • Learn from others. Working with an external partner is beneficial as they can guide you on best practices. Many organizations have begun developing their supplier diversity programs which are currently at different levels of maturity. I encourage you to ask for support from people with experience doing the same thing. Be inspired, not intimidated.
  • Know your data. It is important to understand the demographics of your overall supplier base to establish a baseline. Tracking this data is important! If the information is not available, survey your suppliers. You may be surprised to find out that you are already working with more diverse suppliers than expected.
  • Understanding your spend categories. By having a better understanding of your purchases, you can segment the diverse suppliers by spend category to accelerate your identification process.
  • Start internally with your biggest buyers. Identify which teams are the biggest purchasers within your organization, as they may have the highest impact. Educate them early on and guide them to source from diverse suppliers.
  • Every purchase counts. While having the buy-in of the biggest purchasers is an asset, don’t forget about the rest. Even the small purchases play an important role. This demonstrates that your organization is learning and supporting supplier diversity.

We are now in the third year of our initiative and we continue making strides. Every year, we see increased interest and support from the organization. Now more than ever is a great time to invest in supplier diversity to help fast-track our economic recovery. If a formal program is outside your reach for now, even taking small steps in this direction helps—you don’t need a formalized process in order to make a difference. Through simple shifts, Canada’s largest purchasers can make a big impact.

About Maude Pariseau

Maude has been Director, Procurement at BDC since 2016, where she is responsible for the organization’s procurement and supplier diversity programs.

With a Bachelor of Laws and a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Maude has over 15 years of experience working with entrepreneurs. Driven by a desire to increase diversity and inclusion at BDC, Maude is passionately involved in a number of networks and collaborates with several organizations offering underserved markets such as women-owned businesses and minorities the opportunity to grow through access to new supply chains or the expansion of existing channels.

Become a WBE Canada Corporate Member

As a certifying council for Canadian Women Business Enterprises (WBEs), WBE Canada is a strong advocate for including more women-owned businesses in supply chains across Canada and beyond. In addition to certification, we also help develop women-owned businesses and connect them to opportunities within corporate and government supply chains. Our support for WBEs would not be possible without our work with our buyer community. WBE Canada provides its Members with access to verified WBE database (the largest database of certified businesses in Canada), training and consulting services, networking and matchmaker events and other customized services to support supplier diversity program development and improvement.
To learn more click here.